Message from Christopher Barnes, President of the Inter American Press Association

The appreciation of the media and journalists in times of pandemic / World Press Freedom Day

Message from Christopher Barnes, President of the Inter American Press Association and director of The Gleaner Company (Media) Limited, Kingston, Jamaica

The IAPA and the celebration of World Press Freedom Day*

Miami (May 1, 2020).- Despite this time of uncertainty and volatility caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we pause to celebrate the fact that people are appreciating the traditional media and journalism as their primary and trusted source of information.

The key to this trust in the media above other forms of communication abound with misinformation, lies and rumors, is due to the hard work that the media and journalists do daily to turn complex data into reliable information.

Quality content is expensive and risky work. Journalists and editors work and filter data with rigor and precision. Many times, they must take risks to overcome restrictions and limitations in many forms to access information that perpetrators, official and private, want to hide. Observing, asking, investigating, denouncing, exposing, criticizing, and showing new ways and solutions are the usual contributions of good journalism. It is for this consistency in quality journalism why societies regard traditional media as "essential services" during this global pandemic.

Sadly, the pandemic has further weakened the financial bases of many media establishments. The abrupt drop in advertising and circulation due to the economic recession has forced many staff and journalists cuts.

In many countries, from the United States to Jamaica, or from Ecuador to Bolivia, the media are overwhelmed and there are few alternatives to prop up their sustainability. In Bolivia, to cite one example, newspapers have, in the last decade, been victims of discrimination and punished during the political crises then affecting the country. Currently, with the aggravating effects of the pandemic, their state of finances is at a critical stage and in need of urgent financial solutions that will allow them to continue operating.

In this sense, we celebrate all kinds of initiatives that the media are adopting to keep their information services when they are most needed. We celebrate as well private initiatives, such as those of Google and Facebook, who are offering financial support to local media to continue its digital transformation.

Among other formulas for success, we celebrate the alliances that many media and journalists have made nationally and internationally to work together, whether for regional investigations or for public health education campaigns.

We also value the determination of the media and journalists to operate in this time when restrictions on access to sources have been exacerbated due to states of emergency, as was stated in Aruba, Chile, El Salvador, and Trinidad and Tobago, among other countries.

On this special day, we do not want to ignore the fact that we still live in a region where the courage of journalists is put to the test every day. We reject the violence and impunity that surrounds crimes against journalists. Likewise, we hope that the governments of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Paraguay will strengthen systems for the protection and security of journalists with human, technical and financial resources.

From IAPA we want to celebrate and congratulate all the media and their staff for the relevant work they do every day to nurture and strengthen press freedom as a fundamental axis of democratic life.

*World Press Freedom Day, which is celebrated on May 3, was established in commemoration of the Declaration of Windhoek, a document that contains principles on the defense of press freedom, drawn up in 1991 during a meeting of African journalists, launched by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida.